Anything you could possibly think of or ever want to do, you can probably do in New York City. From weird sports to experimental theater and pretty much anything in between, there is something for everyone in this fantastic city. For example, would you like to drink bottomless beer from a handmade glass while watching artisans create even more incredible objects out of glass? Yes? Then friends, you’re in luck! Because at Brooklyn Glass in Gowanus, you can do just that at their Hot Glass, Cold Beer event held three or four times a year.
This event has been on my radar for a while, and last weekend my husband and I finally checked it out. And silly me, I thought this would be an intimate gathering where we sat in a small room and watched one or two people show us how to hand-make glass. Nothing could have prepared us for what this event was instead! Brooklyn Glass is located in a 4,000 square-foot facility, so this wasn’t an intimate event at all–there were probably a couple hundred of us spread throughout the massive space.
If you book tickets in advance rather than at the door, you’re guaranteed to receive a handmade glass to keep and use for free pours of beer all night (all for the bargain price of $25, I might add). And while you sip through the night, you can wander through several different stations and watch their amazing artists at work.
When we first entered, there was a DJ playing music, and we watched four guys working with the massive furnaces in the front room. Fortunately, it was a frigid night because these guys were melting glass at temperatures around 2100°F, so we kept nice and toasty while watching them work.
They were creating what appeared to be a huge crab, whose body was the size of a dinner plate, and they seemed to be working on finishing its last couple claws. All four of the guys were working together, constantly moving through the room, going from one spot to another, rolling the pipes with the glass on the end, cutting hot glass, and, slowly but surely, turning the glass into an actual object.
I was impressed at how well they worked together, moving quickly out of each other’s way to avoid hitting each other with any of the hot glass, and they all seemed to know what they needed to do despite barely speaking to one another. It was a well-choreographed dance, and it was utterly fascinating to watch.
Next, we headed toward the back of the facility where we watched a couple guys bending neon tubing, and each had a pattern on their workspace which showed what the finished product should look like. Working one bend at a time, they would blow air through the tube to help keep it inflated while simultaneously holding the glass over a flame until it became hot enough to bend into the shape indicated on the pattern.
Incidentally, I was surprised at the amount of open flame up in this place, and I was glad I didn’t have a bag or purse with me. It was crowded, and I was so worried about knocking something over just walking through there. (I was also surprised they didn’t make any of us sign waivers considering the crowds and the fact that they were also serving a lot of beer!)
There were four other guys all the way in the back of the facility who were working on creating all kinds of different smaller objects. One was making pipes, the likes of which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever strolled through Greenwich Village or past any guy who sells stuff on NYC sidewalks. A couple other guys were making glasses like the ones we were drinking out of.
And the last guy, my favorite, was making these fantastic miniature objects right before our eyes. He started with an elephant, next was a ballerina, and then he created an octopus! It didn’t take him more than 5-10 minutes, and there was an incredible amount of detail. I don’t even know how he decided where to start and how he could produce something so intricate, but it was so impressive to watch.
You can watch this video from Brooklyn Glass if you want to get a better sense of what you’re in for if you head out to Gowanus for this unique event. And if you get a chance to attend Hot Glass, Cold Beer and think working with glass might be something you’d like to try yourself, you’ll be very interested to learn that they actually offer tons of classes!
They have everything from glass blowing to neon bending and flameworking. Some classes are a day long, while others are weekend or multi-week courses, and there’s plenty of variety to meet your interests. Or, if you’re already an experienced glass artisan, you can even rent out space at their studio and do your own work.
Don’t worry, though, if you’re not into beer or don’t want to drop the cash on a class but still want to visit Brooklyn Glass. You can schedule a tour, check out their amazing glass demonstrations during Open House New York or Gowanus Open Studios (both of which happen annually each October), or visit their events page to see what other special events they might have coming up in the future.
Have you ever been to Brooklyn Glass or would you like to learn how to work with glass? Let me know your thoughts!
And if you’re as fascinated by glass-making as I am, check out my post about Dale Chihuly’s exhibition in Seattle!
Plan Your Own Visit
Where to Go
- Brooklyn Glass: 142 13th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215
- The F and G at 4th Ave and 9th Street and the R train at 9th Street are all within a few blocks of the studio. There is no parking lot, but on-street parking is available nearby.
When to Go
- Hot Glass, Cold Beer is offered a few times a year. Check their events page or subscribe to their mailing list to get notifications for upcoming events.
- Otherwise, you can schedule a tour during their open hours, take a class, visit during Open House New York or Gowanus Open Studios, or rent space to do your own glass work!
Tips for Visiting
- If you’re attending Hot Glass, Cold Beer, it’s best if you arrive early so you can pick out your free glass and actually get one that’s reasonably-sized. Otherwise, you may get stuck with a teeny-tiny shot-glass sized glass, which will require you to visit the bar more frequently. This means less time to watch the artists at work!
- It was very cold the night we visited, but it was perfectly toasty inside. I’d recommend wearing layers so you can peel some off if the furnaces are making things extra toasty.
- Definitely limit your belongings when you visit. There were A LOT of people at this event, a lot of open flames and, well, a lot of glass as well. The less you have to carry the better because you definitely don’t want to knock anything over! Also, please drink responsibly (see: lots of open flames!)
- All of the workers wear sunglasses, and after watching a couple of demonstrations, you’ll understand why. Take breaks in between demonstrations to give your eyes a break, because I was seeing spots after one of the longer demonstrations we watched!